Bishops, bishops, bishops . . .
The International Bishops’ Conference on Faith & Order was founded in 1991 by the then Bishops of Fort Worth and London, Clarence Pope and Graham Leonard, as a direct response to the developments taking place in various Provinces of the Anglican Communion, which seemed neither consonant with scripture, nor required by the tradition – in particular the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Under the Presidency of Bishop Pope, its inaugural meeting took place that year in Church House, Westminster.
It met again in London in the summer of 1992, at the time of the great Festival of Faith at Wembley Arena, under the presidency of Bishop John Klyberg, the then Bishop of Fulham, and then in Canterbury in 1995, under the Presidency of the Bishop of Sodor & Man, the Right Reverend Nöel Jones.
During the Lambeth Conference of 1998, and under the Presidency of Bishop Jones, it held a series of very successful meetings, which enabled the bishops of orthodox belief to network, to support each other and to make common cause when needed. A further Day Conference took place in London in June, 2000, as bishops gathered for Forward in Faith’s great millennial celebration Christ our Future. In 2003, the bishops met at All Saints’ Pastoral Centre, London Colney, in Hertfordshire, under their current President, Bishop Jack Iker ssc of Fort Worth, who is assisted in his task by two Vice-Presidents: Bishop Martyn Jarrett ssc, of Beverley, and Bishop Maternus Kapinga, of Ruvuma in Tanzania.
. . . from all over the world!
Some three dozen bishops attended the 2003 meeting, with almost 50% coming from the third world, particularly Africa. Readers of New Directions will not need to be told how very little money – from a western perspective – third world dioceses have available to meet the costs associated with long-haul air travel and attendance at conferences like the IBC. But, thanks to the generosity of a number of institutions and individuals in 2003, over £14,000 was raised in order to make it possible for so many bishops from the developing world to spend time together with their counterparts from the UK, the USA and Australia.
The Lambeth Conference
With the next Lambeth Conference – in the summer of 2008, in Canterbury – looming, it is of course essential that the bishops of our integrity from all over the world are enabled to prepare themselves. To this end, Bishop Iker has called another meeting, again at All Saints’, London Colney, in September this year. He is anxious – and all members of Forward in Faith will naturally share his anxiety! – that every single bishop who ought to attend is enabled so to do. Already, nearly £6,000 has been raised towards the costs which Stephen Parkinson, Forward in Faith’s Director, who is administering the conference, estimates will this year approach £20,000.
How you can help
There are three things which Forward in Faith Branches, Parishes & Members can do to assist and enable the work of the IBC.
First, and foremost, of course, is to hold these faithful bishops in your prayers. In particular, we hope that our priests will make the work and witness of the IBC the intention at their mass on a regular basis between now and 25/27 September, when the conference takes place.
Second, please ask yourself whether you, your parish, or your FiF diocesan branch might not be able to help in some way with the costs of this enterprise. You might offer, for example, to meet the conference fee for a third world bishop – just £150. Or, perhaps, make a contribution towards meeting his air fare – usually, of course, several hundred pounds!
Third, we need welcoming, hospitable parishes to ‘adopt’ a bishop during his visit! The conference runs from a Monday to a Wednesday; most of the participants will therefore be arriving in the UK some time towards the end of the preceding week. For many, it may be their first trip to this country and we can only begin to imagine how intimidating it must be to arrive at, say, Heathrow Airport in such circumstances! In 2003, a number of parishes volunteered to be at the airport when the bishop arrived, to offer him hospitality, to deliver him safely to London Colney for the start of the conference, to collect him again at the end of the conference and then make sure he caught his plane home! It provided a wonderful opportunity for an overseas bishop to see something of life in an English parish, as well as for the parish to learn something of some small part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Out of such brief encounters, some long-lasting relationships have been born, to the very real benefit of all concerned!
If you would like to help the work of the IBC by making a donation towards the cost of bring a third world bishop to the UK this September, please send your donation, payable to the ‘International Bishops’ Conference’, to IBC, c/o 2A The Cloisters, Gordon Square, London WC1H 0AG.
If you would be willing to take responsibility for a bishop during his time in England, please contact Stephen Parkinson at the above address or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.